Jakub Voracek Emerging as Critical Role Player for Flyers

Jakub Voracek Emerging as Critical Role Player for Flyers

Before training camp got underway, before the lockout even
started, when we were penciling in names for who might replace Jaromir Jagr on
the Flyers’ top line, Jakub Voracek seemed a favorite. It’s been a long time
coming, but when Voracek was paired with captain Claude Giroux on Monday, the
two of them showcased why many observers thought it to be a logical fit.

Voracek assisted on Philadelphia’s first four goals –
including a near hat trick for Giroux – during a 7-0 dismantling of the New
York Islanders, setting a single-game career high in points in the process.
After getting off to something of a slow start, Voracek has surged out to the
club lead in points with 15.

Not surprisingly, Peter Laviolette is expected to stick with
the same combinations
for Wednesday night’s game in Pittsburgh, opting to cease
the juggling act with his lines coming off the Flyers’ most complete effort of
the season. That means Voracek, Giroux, and Matt Read will have their chance for
an encore against one of the NHL’s best teams to this point.

Obviously the Isles thrashing was just one game, coming
against one of the league’s most porous defenses at that, so we don’t want to
get too far ahead of ourselves on what type of production we can expect.
Then again, Voracek always seemed like he could be a good fit with G.

Right as we were beginning to wonder how much the Flyers and
Giroux missed Jagr, Voracek demonstrated why so many thought he could replace
some of that production. While Voracek is not to be confused with one of the
greatest to ever play the game – so this is pretty much the furthest thing from
a direct comparison – he does possess some similar skills, namely his speed through
the neutral zone and strength on the puck.

What has Giroux’s line lacked early this season? Often times
they’ve experienced some difficulty mounting and sustaining an attack – or skating
the puck into enemy territory and then sustaining that pressure. In a word, Giroux’s
line has lacked Jagr, or at least a Jagr-like presence.

Voracek looks like the player on the roster best suited to
fill that role, which he built a very strong case for on Monday. It doesn’t hurt
he has a keen eye with the biscuit, either – his 12 helpers also tops on the
club – and at 49 points he was one of the Flyers' leading scorers last season,
tied for fourth with Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds.

For now it’s a no-brainer. Voracek will stick with Giroux
and see his ice time increase as long as the production continues, which it has been
no matter who he’s been paired with of late. Previously, he and Brayden Schenn
had been developing some chemistry, and Voracek now has 12 points in his last
nine tilts, including three multi-point games.

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Eagles-Vikings predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Vikings predictions by our (cough) experts

The Eagles are coming off two straight losses and the slate doesn't get any easier with the 5-0 Vikings coming to town.

It also marks the return of Sam Bradford, who was traded just before Week 1, paving the way for rookie Carson Wentz to start.

The Eagles kick off against Minnesota at the Linc on Sunday at 1 p.m., so it's time for our (cough) experts' predictions for the Week 7 matchup.

Dave Zangaro (2-3)
I'll admit, this game just has a weird feel. It has the feeling like the Eagles might be able to catch the Vikings sleeping after their bye week and hand them their first loss of the season.

I was almost tempted to pick the Birds in this one.

But I'm not.

Ultimately, the Vikings are just the better team. I'm not sure how the Eagles are going to put up points against them. And I'm not convinced the Eagles' defense will be able to stop anyone after what we saw last weekend.

They keep it close, but the Birds fall to 3-3.

Vikings 20, Eagles 17

Derrick Gunn (2-3)
The good news is Minnesota's offense is ranked 30th in the league and the Vikings' run game is dead last averaging 70.6 yards per game. 

The bad news is the Vikings' defense is a monster, ranked 2nd overall and first in points allowed at 12.6.

There is not a weak link in the Vikings' D and they are fundamentally sound across the board. The Eagles' defense vows that what happened to them at Washington — allowing 230 rushing yards — won't happen again. 

Carson Wentz got roughed up by the Redskins' pass rush, and unless the Eagles' offensive line plugs the leaks, more of the same could happen this Sunday. The Birds have every reason to rebound at home, but I just don't like the overall matchup. 

Vikings 20, Eagles 13

Ray Didinger (2-3)
The Vikings aren't going undefeated. You don't go 16-0 in the NFL with a 30th ranked offense which is what the Vikings have. Yes, their defense is very good. Going back to last season they have held each of their last nine opponents to 17 points or less. They are deep, fast and well-coached by Mike Zimmer. But the offense led by Sam Bradford coughs and sputters a lot.
As a result, the Vikings will play a lot of close, low-scoring games and somewhere along the line they are going to lose. It could even happen this week when they play the Eagles. Special teams could be huge. The Eagles have a big edge with kicker Caleb Sturgis. Vikings kicker Blair Walsh has already missed three field goals and two PATs. However, the Vikings return men -- Marcus Sherels on punts, Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoffs -- are very dangerous. I expect the Eagles to keep it close but in the end I have to go with the superior defense.
Vikings 21, Eagles 16

Andrew Kulp (2-3)
Which Eagles defense shows up on Sunday? If they can limit Minnesota's anemic ground attack, which ranks dead last in the NFL, this should be a close game. Sam Bradford is playing really well, but it's not like he's airing it out all over the place.

Then it becomes a question of how Halapoulivaati Vaitai responds to a rough debut. The Vikings pass-rush is fierce, so it doesn't get any easier this week. As long as the protection gives Carson Wentz a chance, that will at least give the rookie signal-caller a shot at making a few big plays.

For some reason, I like their chances at both. It's going to be another ugly one, but the Eagles do just enough to squeak by.

Eagles 20, Vikings 19

Corey Seidman (2-3)
I foresee a low-scoring game in which the Eagles are more competitive than some might think.

But in the end, the Vikings have the personnel and the defensive-minded head coach (Mike Zimmer) to get key stops down the stretch.

Vikings 20, Eagles 16

Andy Schwartz (1-4)
You’re still reading? 

Well good for you. Much appreciated. 

Because clearly I certainly don’t know what to expect from this team. 

But let’s forget all that for the moment and look at the Bradford Bowl. 

The Vikings’ offense is hardly scary (30th in the league in yards per game behind the Rams and Niners), but their defense is (second in yards per game behind Seattle).

The Eagles’ offense is hardly scary (22nd in yards per game), and their defense (sixth in yards per game) was pretty scary a few weeks ago.

So let’s look at the intangibles. Which team needs this game more? The Eagles. And they’re at home. 

But given the outcomes the last two weeks and that Minnesota is unbeaten and coming off a bye, it certainly makes sense to pick the Vikes, who are favored by 2.5.

Then again, the Eagles not too long ago were unbeaten and coming off a bye … and we all know what happened.

So I’ll say the Birds pull off another upset and remain unbeaten at the Linc. 

Just don’t bet on it.

Eagles 6, Vikings 5

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.